Forgiveness is the Key to Happiness in this difficult journey

I am copying this statement I had written on a back of a piece of scrap paper.  I turned it over and saw the date – April 21, 2012.  Wow!   It was written about a week after my father passed away — on the back side of directions I had printed out for myself.  I kept it all this time and really didn’t do anything with it until now.

Forgiveness is key.  It is the relinquishing the desire to punish.  It unlocks the door to loving again.  It is so easy to not forgive someone out of a sense of “justice” or “punishing” the other person for their wrongs.  Unforgiveness boils down to hatred at it core.  It doesn’t see that everyone is human and is afflicted with sin and imperfection.  All need forgiveness and not one of us can throw stones.  To pick up a stone means I have not sinned.

Life is a difficult journey.  There are going to be some joys, but there will also be pain and suffering, often caused by others.  Unforgiveness just prolongs the suffering.  To be happy is to accept the hardships and to let go of wrongs.  To freely love and forgive as we have received love and forgiveness ourselves.  The quicker we do this, the sooner we a blessed.

Don’t give in, give up!

I was sharing with a client today. We talked about how they wanted to give in. Out of my mouth came, “we don’t want to give in, but we want to give up.” Giving in is what happens when we have using willpower for a long time. Giving up is what we doing where we surrendered our wills. We stop trying.

There are two ways to give up. The right way and the wrong way. Giving up in the wrong way is like giving in to the temptation. We feel guilty and then it fuels more willpower in the end which keeps the cycle going. Giving up in the right way helps us give up all our efforts and trying in our own strength. It is trying to be God. To know everything, to be everything. We don’t think we a doing it, but we are. We are saying, I am not going to do this. But hadn’t we failed in the past? Why do we keep on doing the same thing and expect a different result.

“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again” says the proverb. We shouldn’t give up on the program, we should get keep trying, keep seeking. We need to experience God. But until one experiences the miracle of surrender they are not aware of how there is a deep sense of letting go of our will, our self and letting God do for us what we could not do for ourselves.

Facebook in Real Life

We have to ask ourselves about the good and the bad about Facebook.  It definitely has shaped our culture. We don’t do a lot of things the same way.  It has become a way to communicate through text, videos, pictures, advertisements.  These videos help us see what Facebook would be like in Real Life.  Some are a tiny bit off color, but I included them just to help us get the idea of what is going on and how it is affecting us.  There are more than one.

The Original “Facebook in Real Life”



Brene Brown and Vulnerability

I saw this video and it has really impacted me.  Here is it.  It is Brene Brown, Ph.D., MSW who speaks at TED on the science of connectedness, shame and vulnerability. I have heard people speak before, but she does a really nice job on this.  The video did kind of get viral.


This is really appropriate for addicts and anxious people in recovery.  Take the time to view this and I will be commented on it soon.

Making Mistakes

I am sitting in my son’s pre-Algebra class. The teacher is incredible. Really good. I think math scares a lot of us. It is the fear of making a mistake, the fear of not even knowing what the teacher is talking about or getting answers incorrect that probably is the root of it all.

This teacher said, “homework is about making mistakes and learning how to correct them.” “If you aren’t making any mistakes you shouldn’t be in this class.”

I thought about how profound this was. If in our home we aren’t making some mistake and learning from them, should we be in the home? We will have graduated to the next class, or next life. As long as we are on earth, we are going to make mistakes. Should we be so afraid to make them that we become paralyzed? NO. This would be a waste of time. Making mistakes is the only real way to learn. NO, I should scracht that last sentence. We can learn from others’ mistakes. This is effective. We see what happened when our fellow students broke one of the rules and got sent to the principal’s office. We can learn by sitting in 12 step groups and see what some of the consequences our fellows have made and I do think we learn from them. But what I mean to say is, that “one of the most effective means of learning is through our own mistakes.” How many of us have learned something really, really valuable and it changed our lives, with out some form of making a mistake and correcting it though God’s grace. We are inclined not to make that same mistake again. How many of us didn’t learn from instruction of others, or the mistakes of others?

So, think about this. If we make more mistakes are we going to learn more? Maybe. I think we all would like to learn from the mistakes of others, or get the information from books or others, rather than suffer through the mistakes. Perhaps it is the suffering that gets our attention. But if addiction is all about “not suffering” are we going to learn? Maybe this is why we get stuck in the addiction and we get stuck. We aren’t wanting to feel the discomfort of what the addiction is telling us. So we don’t learn every time is smacks us to the ground. We get back up as though nothing happened. We might feel so ashamed, we can’t learn.

It is said that:

The humble progress.

If we are not humble, we don’t learn from our mistakes. We don’t show are work in the spiritual math class, we guess at the answer. But in recovery, we need to show our work. We tell on ourselves, we don’t just show our work, we show our mistakes. It is showing our mistakes to the teacher or others that we learn from them. In doing this, we become humble and God’s grace is given to the humble.

The teacher her is humble. She doesn’t pretend to know everything. She is very accepting of the student’s level of knowledge, their mistakes and distractions in the classroom. By creating this safe atmosphere the students are learning and learning is more fun.

If the teacher is prideful, shaming, controlling and expects too much. . . the students are too afraid to learn. Are we too afraid to make mistakes that we aren’t learning what we need to learn in recovery? We have to be patient with ourselves and not expect too much. We can ask God who is a great Teacher who is going to be patient with us, love us, help us correct our homework mistakes and expects us to do our own work. We have to do some of the work, but He is the one who ultimately enables us to learn.

If we are humble we are there to learn and not to teacher. We let go our our own ideas and learn new ones. Our problem often is that we hold onto our own ideas. Why? fear? Shame? We can’t admit that we don’t have a clue how to live our life.

In the math class of life won’t want 3 X 3 to = 9, we think it should equal what we want it to be. Math isn’t going to change. It is what it is. I know there is a “New Math” out there but it is about how to do the math, not the actual facts of math. If we are humble and really look at the mistakes we have made, we will see how we have errored and we will learn that 3 times 3 is 9. It isn’t want we think, what we feel, but it is and always will be 9. Math is learned best with less shame and fear. I think sometimes, people who think they are not good at math, it is not their brainpower to learn it, but really their fear or shame that prevents them from learning it.

Do not let your fears get in the way of learning what you need to in recovery, or your life. Your life is too precious. Addiction might have tricked you to think your:

You + your life = 0

But this is not the case. You and your life are precious to God whether you have made a lot of mistakes or not, whether you learned from them or not, whether you are GOING to learn from them or not.

Take care,


How much control do we really have?

Do we really have much choice or is there a Power, a personal God that is directing our lives and intervening? I had just lit the candle for my evening prayers and went to use the bathroom. I take a chance with this and I am not advocating lighting a candle and then leaving the room. As I type this I realize that it is an unnecessary risk. Light it when I am ready to pray and blow it out when I am done. Anyway, I was thinking, how much is God saving me from disaster. Perhaps, he is saving me a hundred times a day, from falling over, getting run over, running someone else over or running into someone. He could be saving me from candles exploding, food poisioning, a natural disaster like earthquake, flood or tornado. Of course this sounds very ego-centric to say that he stopped an earthquake to make my day. As I get older, I realize more of the dangers that exist and I think how God is protecting me from them. Perhaps, I don’t have as much control as I think I do.

If I believe I have a lot of control, then the responsibility lies upon me. It is my fault if I get the disease, the house burnt down or the next calamity. If this is the case, then I need to make sure I am always choosing the right choices. But guess what? I think I choose the wrong things many more times than the right. Why am I not zapped with the consequences of my bad choices?

For instance, I eat some left over Halloween candy that I did not think I would indulge in. I am not prone to eating high fructose corn syrup, artificial flavor and food dyes and enjoying it. If I were to indulge, why not a high quality chocolate bar? But I did anyway. It is 10 times better than 10 years ago. Why don’t I get immediately sick. As a kid, I could eat the stuff and barely feel it. Today, I eat a little and wonder how anyone could like anything this sweet and tasteless. . . and I kind of get sick. The next day, I felt a sugar hangover. So, do I pay for the consequences yes, . . and no. It appears that God in His mercy has built into our bodies a mechanism for making mistakes with food, poisons, lack of exercise, too much stress. There is a resiliency factor. When we are young, perhaps there is more resiliency because of the foolishness of childhood, or maybe our bodies are just younger.  The point is:

God in His mercy allows for mistakes.

If I don’t learn and keep abusing my body, I may eventually have to pay. So, maybe God is protecting us more than we realize. We give Him so little credit.

There are two types of people in the universe. Sorry, for being so simplistic and here I am a professional counselor who should know better than to pigeon hole people, but here it goes.
Some people hold on too tightly and others don’t hold on tight enough.

The first group are control freaks, worry all the time, plan too much, over analyze, over control everything and feel too responsible for everything.

The others don’t think enough about consequences, make too many mistakes, are impulsive, and irresponsible. The spiritual endeavor of each is to move more towards the middle. The control freaks need to learn to let Go and let God run things. To trust a little. To realize it is all going to work out, even with the mistakes in life. God can use them for His purpose. It helps us realize that we are not God. Only He is perfect.

The others need to hold on more. Pay attention. Get a grip and start being responsible.  To reach out to God in prayer and ask him for wisdom and knowledge to make less mistakes.  For the diligence to get things done and turned in on time.  To have God instill in them a healthy fear of him and the consequences that exist in the universe.

In the serenity prayer where it talks about the “wisdom to know the difference” –I often overlooked this part of the prayer. I really didn’t and still don’t have the wisdom to know the difference pf what is in my control and what is not. What if we rearranged the prayer to give it more meaning.

God give me the wisdom to know what things are beyond my control and I need to accept them. Give me wisdom to know what is in my control and help me to do something about these things.

Knowing the difference between these two things may make all the difference.

Take heaven for example. If there is God and a heaven, and what the Bible says about how to get there is true, are too many of us thinking we will end up there, just because we are sincere in our belief system that we have made up on our own? What if we are not taking enough responsibility, not courageously living out our lives enough to the level of what God expects from us?  What if we are being too lenient with ourselves, lowering God’s standards.  Maybe we are in denial? On the other hand, perhaps we understand what God expects of us and are terrified that it will never happen for us. We are relying too much on ourselves, our sense of control rather than upon His mercy which is beyond our control. The free gift of salvation cannot be earned. It is beyond our control. But, if it were that easy to just accept the gift why don’t we all make it into heaven? Because there are parts of the salvation process we must work for.

Works, you say?

“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;” (Phil 2:12)

“Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.” (John 14:23-24)

If we love God we are going to do something.  This something is within our control.  The rest that happens is up to Him and it involves His Grace, which is empowerment from on high, the Holy Spirit.  Without Him we can do nothing.  So it is vital that any actions we take are mixed with the Grace of God.  You will find that this is the combination that helps us not only get sober to be stay sober.  It is by His Grace that we are saved.

Lance Armstrong appears to be Lying

Lance Armstrong appears to by lying. How can this happen? We don’t usually think of an athlete using a drug to boost performance like a drug addict or drug abuser. Consider this. They lie about it for fear of the consequences. There can be denial as well. A fantasy world as well. Shame which makes it impossible to share the truth. A trap in which the person is stuck. Physical consequences that are a result of using the drug.

Just like the spouse who was supporting addiction unintentionally by looking the other way, we have an organization in the case of Lance Armstrong. Any addict may look at it this way. If the lie be told, that is what will cause the harm. But maybe the taking of the drug in the first place is what causes harm…or the lying. Most spouses I have worked with tell me the lying is one of the hardest things, not necessarily the using.

No doubt Lance Armstrong brought about a lot of good. He helped and inspired many had had cancer. His livestrong bracelet created a whole series of other colors supporting other health causes. Many people who struggle with addiction use the good causes to avoid thinking about it dealing with the problems they have with the substance they have used. It helps them stay in denial. Denial is a strong mechanism. Until the situation becomes safer for the person to face reality or sometimes a person is blown out of denial through confrontation, but this is rare. Most of the time if someone is to come out of denial it is when they can let the defenses down. Denial becomes stronger when there are three components. The greater the shame of the behavior, the stronger the attacked and the greater the consequences is what seems to fuel denial.

What will happen next has yet to be seen.  Perhaps, Lance will confess that he got caught in the trap.  Good can come out of all this.  How many of us has never lied?  How many of us has lied to save face?  The challenge is how could Lance have felt the great winning 7 victories in the Tour de France?  Was it that he felt, “everyone else does it (doping) so he won an even race?”  Perhaps he is innocent and the people at the lab had an ax to grind.  Someone had to have gone in an messed with his lab results over the years.  Someone had to predict that there would be a test that would come out later that would measure EPO, sneak into the lab and mess with the results to that Lance would loses the medals only in hindsight.  It didn’t stop him from winning them at the time.  It is a stretch to believe this.

Like an addictive family, I believe that the system is bigger than the individuals.  This is more than just about Lance Armstrong.  Many have come forward and confessed that they used drugs to enhance athletic performance.  These confessions are the beginning of wellness for the whole profession and organization.

Erik Bohlin, M.A.

I Can’t Handle it Anymore

“I can’t handle it anymore!”  We may have thought this, but never said it out loud. Why? It would be like admitted defeat.  Like losing.  Like being a quitter.  The reality is that we learn in recovery, we shouldn’t have been holding on to it anyway. Handling and manipulate come from the same root word, manus in Latin.

hand  and handle

manipulate and manage

They all come from manus (hand in Latin.) Get the idea. We try to control the things that are uncontrollable. We have our hands in things that we shouldn’t.  I know…I am using a lot of shoulds when writing about this, but this may be one should that is necessary.  Really necessary.

You see, we can never find peace when we are over controlling life. We try to manage people, places and things that disturb us, that cause us pain or discomfort.  The more we manage, the less peace we have. We find that no amount of manipuation can bring peace.  Ultimately, we may find ourselves facing the loss of someone we love and we can’t stop them from leaving or dying.  We can’t stop the illness we may be facing. We can change our response to it and this is key.

When we accept life on life’s terms, we will begin to find peace.  This doesn’t mean settling for less necessarily, but it does mean letting go of control.  We apply our energies in what we can change or what we can do.  We can first of all pray and ask the loving God of the Universe to come to our aid.  This is the most important thing we may do in this life–to surrender control of our world and give God an opportunity to come to us and do things that are unimagineably good.  When we do this, we will find serenity.

How many of us could find sobriety without Him?

To admit that our lives are unmanageable (Step 1) in recovery means that that our livs are unhandleable.  I cannot manage it anymore.

How many have let Him guide a situation and it turned out better than we thought?  How many of us have held onto something…worried, fretted and tried to control the outcome and it turned out real well?  We may have the illusion that control works because a lot of things that we worried about never happen.  But this is a false cause and effect. It only appeared that because we worried, that our children came home safely.

Some of us, have had panic and worry because something tragic did happen.  This threw us for a loop.  We didn’t expect it and it turned out bad.  The friend died from cancer.  One of our children was in a car accident.  We lost the job when we got that physical injury when we thought it couldn’t get worse.  We lost our lover when our backs were turned.

So, is control the answer?   No. I don’t think so.  We won’t find peace by trying to prevent unpleasant things from happening.  There is a time for everything.  A time to live.  A time to die.  A time for peace.  A time for war.  There is a season and a purpose.  (Ecclesiastes 3:1-15.)  These things are beyond our control.

So, how do we live in peace?  It is not about external circumstances.  It is about the kingdom of God within us.  St. Paul said it is a secret to learn to be content in whatever circumstances.  So do you want peace?  Look to the Lord in everything.  In everything give thanks. (1 Thess 5:18)  Surrender your life to Him and ask His will to be done and for strength to carry that will out.  You will be surprized.

Whitney Houston’s death is tragic

Whitney_Houston_dies_48I went to go work out at the gym last Saturday when I heard the news.  How tragic.  Whitney Houston’s death hit me differently somehow.  Maybe because I was on the treadmill while the new people were trying to get information outside the Beverly Hilton.  I couldn’t help but think that it was drug related.  Whitney had just completed a movie where she probably had to stay more sober.  She was also going to attend the Grammy Awards on Sunday.  Her death stopped all that.  She probably never thought that she wouldn’t make it to the Grammy’s the next day.

I really never thought much about the personal life of Whitney Houston.   I only really thought about her great talent, her music that would stick with me for days – her public life.  We take for granted that musicians, actors, and “famous” people may give up their private lives for the sake of their career.  I am not just talking about tabloids and photos.  I am saying that they may not feel like they have a personal life.  Their public life has taken over.  Addiction may be an unfortunate way to feel a “private” life, a “secret” life where they can “be themselves” and do things that they know the world would not be proud of.  There is a certain denial (unawareness) we the fans have towards the famous as we watch them die from addiction.  Do we intervene and have an intervention that would say, we love you, we love your talents, but we can not contribute to watching you dies from this disease.  If addiction and rehab are mentions it comes across as shaming.  The addictive artist then respond by having to defend themselves.

We are too used to the tabloid exposing and shaming they entry into treatment.

We don’t really think about what the personal life of stars must be.  I mean, really be like.  Do they really ever feel like the have a private life.  Does there talent compell them.  Is there a sacrifice of one’s personal life when one is successful?  I am not just talking about the media crowding in.  I am talking about how does one live a normal life when you are that successful.  Each of us may have a calling or mission of some sort.  But most of us is not that talented or driven to succeed as only a few.  Those few seem to struggle so.

Great talent, a world that adores you and great strength seems to be of no help for one who struggles with addiction.  It is quite sad that there isn’t a way to make someone stop taking drugs.  This is a disease that can only be arrested by the person themself.  One has to ask what caused this?  Was the pressure too much? Was her talent part of the problem? Think of the adoring fans.  To leave that behind, what would that be like?  Once you have the much popularity, then what?  Can you just live a normal life like everyone else or are you compelled to succeed? It the addiction to drugs to balance out the success?

This news makes me all the more committed to try to be part of the solution in people’s lives who struggle with addiction.  It make me consider about the balance between our private lives and our public selves.  May God have mercy on Whitney and on us all.